After what seems like years of not leaving my home state of Illinois (except for family gatherings in Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri and Wisconsin), I finally took a road trip to a completely new location: Nashville/Franklin, Tennessee! The university that my best friend and I work for gave us the entire week of the fourth of July off, so we packed up my car and headed south.
One of my mom’s cousins (which makes her my first cousin, once removed in case you’re wondering) Janet, and her husband, Craig, graciously welcomed us to stay at their home in Franklin. Our five days in north central Tennessee were jam-packed with food, coffee, shopping, walking and trying not to overheat (the humidity was no joke).
Nashville, it seems, has become the Vegas of the Midwest in terms of a touristic draw for conventions, bachelor/bachelorette parties and concerts. However, the city had lots to offer besides booze and honky tonk (at least once we left Broadway Street). We were primarily interested in sustainable fashion, good coffee and wall murals, which were spread out all over the city, so it was very helpful that we had our own transportation. In most locations we were able to find free street parking. In contrast to the hustle of downtown Nashville, Franklin was calm and quaint. Its main downtown area boasted cute shops, unpretentious dining options and beautiful, historic homes.
Backstage tour of the Ryman Theatre (former home of the Grand Ole Opry). Standing in front of a whole bunch of iconic murals for photo ops. Wandering in and out of cute shops including ABLE, Nisolo, Philanthropy, Anthropology, Draper James, Madewell and Marine Layer. All the coffee: Honest Coffee Roasters, High Brow Coffee + Tea, Frothy Monkey, The Well Coffee House, White Bison Coffee. Driving past the green hills of Tennessee. Buying a violin at Nashville Violins. Delicious biscuits & breakfast at the Loveless Café. Driving under and then walking over the Natchez Trace Parkway. Comfort food at Puckett’s. Literally brushing shoulders with some contemporary Christian musicians at Journey Church.
One member of my extended family in Franklin was the lead vocalist in the Christian rock band, Audio Adrenaline. After retiring from the stage, he and a few of his band mates founded the Hands and Feet Project, a non-profit that does development work in Haiti, providing economic, physical, spiritual and educational care to orphans. In 2017, the Hands and Feet Project expanded their development reach by establishing Haiti Made, a hand-made, leather goods business that provides technical training and sustainable employment to Haitians. I’ve known about and supported the Hands and Feet Project for some time and knew of its domestic origins in Franklin, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the Haiti Made merchandise available to purchase in The Well Coffeehouse. It was pretty cool to see how community support in the U.S. can help support the economies of communities in Haiti. Check out the Hands and Feet Project for more information and be sure to shop Haiti Made!